Daniel Quinn Critique


#1
Post# 15601
This post is addressed to Daniel Quinn:

I first heard about Derrick Jensen's work through a recommendation you made on your reading list several years ago for his book A Language Older Than Words. I thought Language was a deeply moving and beautiful book--still do--and I also admired his next book, The Culture of Make Believe, though its subject was so dark as to make it far from enjoyable for me.

In his more recent work, though, Jensen has expressed his conviction that "[t]his culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living" (quoting from Endgame). Based on that assumption, he's argued that the very best those who love the world can do is to try to bring civilization down as soon as possible in a sort of planned demolition, like taking down a condemned building. While I don't agree with Jensen and see no reason to think you do based on my understanding of your work, my impression is that many people with an earnest desire to save the world have read books by both of you and would likely be interested in reading your reaction to his clarion call for us to "bring it all down." 

Here was Daniel Quinn’s response:

In ISHMAEL (pages 105-110) I dubbed our civilization "the Taker Thunderbolt," a badly designed aircraft that began in free fall and is still in free fall--in the air but not in flight. Nowadays, Ishmael says, "Everyone is looking down, and it's obvious that the ground is rushing up toward you--and rushing up faster every year. Basic ecological and planetary systems are being impacted by the Taker Thunderbolt, and that impact increases in intensity every year. Basic, irreplaceable resources are being devoured every year--and they're being devoured more greedily every year. Whole species are disappearing as a result of your encroachment--and they're disappearing in greater numbers every year. Pessimists--or it may be that they're realists--look down and say, 'Well, the crash may be twenty years off or maybe as much as fifty years off. Actually it could happen anytime. There's no way to be sure.' But of course there are optimists as well, who say, 'We must have faith in our craft. After all, it has brought us this far in safety. What's ahead isn't doom, it's just a little hump that we can clear if we all just pedal a little harder. Then we'll soar into a glorious, endless future, and the Taker Thunderbolt will take us to the stars and we'll conquer the universe itself.' But your craft isn't going to save you. Quite the contrary, it's your craft that's carrying you toward catastrophe. Five billion of you pedaling away--or ten billion or twenty billion--can't make it fly. It's been in free fall from the beginning, and that fall is about to end."

Derrick Jensen sees as clearly as I do the disastrous impact the Taker Thunderbolt is having on our planet. It is at this point that our visions diverge. I would like to avert the crash if at all possible by making the "passengers" of the Thunderbolt understand WHY the Thunderbolt can't stay in the air–and never could have. I want them to understand this for two reasons: first, to get them working on making the Thunderbolt airworthy, and second, if they can't do that–if the Thunderbolt crashes–to make sure they understand that they must not just BUILD IT AGAIN. Jensen merely wants to accelerate the crash. My point is that, if that crash were to occur tomorrow, the people of the world would, I believe, immediately begin rebuilding the Thunderbolt, putting themselves in a position to repeat the catastrophe once again someday in the future. As I say, I would like to avert the catastrophe; but if that's not possible, I would like time to make as many people as possible understand WHY it happened and that we must not just start doing it all over again. Jensen puts his faith in destroying civilization; I put mine in changing minds.</blockquote>

#2

So you don’t think Daniel Quinn’s books can still be useful as an introduction to primitivist ideas?


#3

Wait, I’ve almost got the Thunderbolt airworthy. Hold on!

Wait a sec…what does this big red button do?


#4

I think that’s the red button that Derrick Jensen was looking for.


#5

:smiley: :smiley:

Seriously though, to me it seems like the biggest difference in their POVs is that DJ believes that it is more important to stop the destruction of the natural world (and of human psyches, and human life, and everything else civ is destroying) than it is to spend time (allowing the civ to continue its destruction) trying to convince the mass of the populace of what is going wrong and to take the necessary steps to fix it - while DQ believes the opposite. But I guess that points to another diverging POV - whether one believes that civ IS fixable (DQ is at least holding out the possibility), or if it is by nature destined to collapse/impossible for civ to stop exploiting and destroying (what DJ believes).

I personally agree with DJ 100%. I agree with him that the longer we wait to stop this train, the more humans and non-humans (and future generations of both) will suffer and die. No amount of consciousness-raising or hope in a possible “way out” is worth waiting, IMHO.

Edited to add: I still think DQ’s work is extremely valuable however - which is obvious by the (positive) impact he has had on so many.


#6

As an aside: though I may not “agree” with him in every respect anymore, Daniel Quinn helped me to learn how to think, and for this I will remain forever grateful to him. Thank you Dan!


#7

Since we are ALL part of the community of life then those - who are currently captivated by the Taker mythology - are TOO/Aswell/also included in the community.

Therefore Civilization DOES NOT EXIST. Only IMAGES of it. Only ideas.
The craft is our minds, NOT the community. NOT THE PEOPLE.

By asserting an opposite to an image that you disagree with, you are at the same time perpetuating it. Interesting game… :wink:

Both sides are trying to chop a magnet in half, and keep “their polarity”

You can’t get rid of an enemy, because an enemy is just an idea. I doesn’t hold water in the community of life.

(have you every tried drinking water out of an enemy? … I almost got it…once)

Ask the bear. Careful though, he might make an enemy out of ya’.

Peace

We’ll get there…

NOW!!

(did that work?)

Sorry I’m bored


#8

Quinn is still a writer, doing what he can do to stop the craft. Jensen is doing the same, also through writing. That is where their talents lie.

It’s two different rivers that will ultimately end in the ocean. The path to get there matters little.

I first read Quinn and that’s what got me started. Then I was lead to Howard Zinn, Jared Diamond, John Zerzan and finally Derrick Jensen. Before you can take the next step, you have to be able to see the stairs.


#9

“Quinn is still a writer, doing what he can do to stop the craft. Jensen is doing the same, also through writing. That is where their talents lie.”

thumbs up.

Words can turn to action. And WHAT action occurs, depends on an individuals interpretation of what THEY THINK that the writers are writing about.
If one sees Civilization as “evil”, then this image causes action AGAINST Civilization… which, it is thought, will lead to “good” - -> no Civilization.
This is just a black/white game that keeps “Civilization”(the idea) around.

Diligents (on both sides of the fence) are Toys r us kids who never grew up, because if they did… they wouldn’t BE toys r us kids… Their minds are as fragile as the community of life. (because they are one)

Tearing down infrastructure before people see the stairs, is not a river I would take. Render infrastructure useless as a civilizational ideal (see the art in it), then put it to use based on how it benefits the area it is in…

Unless we WANT war… taking toys away from babys with guns.

The “illusioned” see any action against the state as “evil”.
And they also see any action FOR the state as “evil”.
Both sides play evil. :smiley:

There are no games when we see ourselves in all things.

NOW!!
lol


#10

[quote=“Raven, post:9, topic:1069”]If one sees Civilization as “evil”, then this image causes action AGAINST Civilization… which, it is thought, will lead to “good” - -> no Civilization.
This is just a black/white game that keeps “Civilization”(the idea) around.[/quote]

Respectfully, I disagree with this. Civilization is a machine of death - it is killing humans and the planet (and our collective future) as we speak. Just ignoring it - living our lives as if it doesn’t exist - is NOT going to make it disappear, or stop the killing.

I agree that the key to resistance is to withdraw our support for it. But individually removing ourselves from civilization is just not going to cut it, because the vast vast majority will continue to participate in it, either from being brainwashed or coerced into it (not participating is impossible for 99.99% of people - anyone who isn’t relatively wealthy and who has to work to survive), which means that civilization will continue on whether or not we few are participating or not.

You and I (and all of us rewilders) could die tomorrow and that wouldn’t slow civilization’s death march one bit. The only way it will be stopped is if you and I ACT TO MAKE IT STOP.

In my humble opinion, of course ;).


#11

"I like to use the metaphor of the butterfly. In metamorphosis, within the body of the caterpillar little things that biologists call imaginal discs or imaginal cells begin to crop up in the body of the caterpillar. They aren’t recognized by the immune system so the caterpillar’s immune system wipes them out as they pop up. It isn’t until they begin to link forces and join up with each other that they get stronger and are able to resist the onslaught of the immune system, until the immune system itself breaks down and the imaginal cells form the body of the butterfly.

I think that is a beautiful metaphor for what is happening in our times. The old body is going into meltdown while the new one develops. It isn’t that you end one thing and then start another. So everybody engaged in recycling, in alternative projects, in communal living, in developing healthier systems for themselves and each other is engaged in building the new world while the old one collapses. Its collapse is inevitable. There is no way around that."

Quote from Elizabet Sahtouris http://www.scottlondon.com/interviews/sahtouris.html

It took a meterorite to wipe out one entrenched living system (dinosaurs…) - It might take something similar to wipe out another system (civilization) … which actually comes built in with it’s own disasters waiting to happen. I don’t reckon we need to do anything to tear it down, just like the butterfly imaginal cells, get busy building the new living system, and let the old one crumble around us.


#12

Hey All,

My biggest beef here lies with the illusions that Daniel Quinn seems to accept (or miss entirely). While his work changed my life and I feel thankful for that, I also recognize that in this particular instance (which lies at the heart of rewilding), his words sound insane.

To say you that he doesn’t want to bring down civilization because he feels fear that people will “start over” says two things;

  1. His outlook comes from a place of fearing a possible future that lies so far ahead it has no relevance to our present situation.

  2. His fear of civilization re-starting would not exist if he understood collapse dynamics (diminishing returns) and larger planetary changes (agriculture cannot exist under future climate changes).

To think that we need to educate everyone before civilization collapses sounds like trying to convince everyone in a 12 passenger van to buckle up, and that in the future we should drive more carefully… mere seconds from a collision! It makes absolutely no sense. We need to stop the van now.

Let’s take his own examples of previous civilizations. Do you think every Mayan knew the ins and outs of civilizations before they collapsed? No. They collapsed, dealt with it, created mythologies that prevented that kind of growth in the future. They did it because of collapse. Nothing will teach people how much damage this culture has done, than the actual collapse. We also know that people didn’t merely “walk away” from a slave-class system, but rather the system crumbled and that means people resisted slavery. It looks rather insane to think that we’ll have some sort of world-wide spiritual masturbatory awakening where everyone will miraculously walk away from civilization. Anyone who thinks that, has not evaluated the power structure of civilization at all.

Bottom line: The longer civilization exists, the less biodiversity we will have. It doesn’t matter if we know about it or not, we need biodiversity, not less biodiversity and more educated folks. Gimme a break.


#13
Post# 15601 I want them to understand this for two reasons: first, to get them working on making the Thunderbolt airworthy

This is actually what bugs me the most.

Somehow, Quinn believes that the problem isn’t that there is anything inherently wrong with civilization, but that with a little restructuring it could even be sustainable. wtf?


#14

i still respect his work - it got me started, but…

[quote=“thunder thighs, post:13, topic:1069”][quote] Post# 15601
I want them to understand this for two reasons: first, to get them working on making the Thunderbolt airworthy[/quote]

This is actually what bugs me the most.[/quote]

totally agreed… that statement really bugs me a lot and kind of surprises me. though i never really felt any sense of … i dunno, commitment to action(?) when i read his books (which i admittedly haven’t for at least 5 years and i was a different person so my memory could be skewing things).

it almost makes it sound like trying to make civilization “work” and that’s just creepy coming from the writer of the books that initiated a whole lot of what makes me creeped out by that statement, aha…


#15

Hey all,

Somehow, Quinn believes that the problem isn't that there is anything inherently wrong with civilization, but that with a little restructuring it could even be sustainable. wtf?

Ran Prieur is saying almost the same thing here:

http://ranprieur.com/essays/saveciv.html

Take care,

Curt


#16

It’s funny how we build these skinny little pedestals, put people up on them, then ridicule them when they lose their balance and fall off.


#17

I know. People are so crazy! :wink: :smiley: ;D


#18
Respectfully, I disagree with this. Civilization is a machine of death - it is killing humans and the planet (and our collective future) as we speak. Just ignoring it - living our lives as if it doesn't exist - is NOT going to make it disappear, or stop the killing.

PEOPLE do this. Not “Civilization”

If you can plunk down “Civilization” on the table in front of me, I may think twice.
You call it an “it”, but you can’t show me it. And neither can I show you.

Plunk down a “CEO”, and I’ll call him a member of the community of life.
Plunk down a “Mcdon-ulks” and I’ll call it rock, metal, and glass. (also members).

I agree that the key to resistance is to withdraw our support for it. But individually removing ourselves from civilization is just not going to cut it, because the vast vast majority will continue to participate in it, either from being brainwashed or coerced into it (not participating is impossible for 99.99% of people - anyone who isn't relatively wealthy and who has to work to survive), which means that civilization will continue on whether or not we few are participating or not.

Does the Raven concern herself with such scientific religion?

give and take in your area, like the Raven does…
All biomass is the community of life, you and I. Show me Civilization IN the biomass.

You and I (and all of us rewilders) could die tomorrow and that wouldn't slow civilization's death march one bit. The only way it will be stopped is if you and I ACT TO MAKE IT STOP.

The warrior does what he wants in the moment. The children flock to him because they see mystery. He is wild. And he can also read, and flush a toilet. The warrior is acting.

All life marches to death/life. You can worry about it if you want.


#19
His outlook comes from a place of fearing a possible future that lies so far ahead it has no relevance to our present situation.

Could I not turn that around on people BOTH for and against “Civilization”?

People who worry about the future, and past have no presence.


#20

PEOPLE do this. Not “Civilization”

If you can plunk down “Civilization” on the table in front of me, I may think twice.
You call it an “it”, but you can’t show me it. And neither can I show you.[/quote]

here, i’ll try and “plunk civilization down on the table” for you:

civilization is a culture based on large settlements called cities. as cities grow, so does their circumference of resource extraction. civilization demands infinitely increasing amounts of resources to infinitely grow on a finite planet.

civilization is inherently destructive. it’s only a matter of time before it crashes, but it’s up to us to make sure it destroys as little as possible as it falls.